Love you may be one of the most universally understood words in the English language, but there is still a lot we don’t know about this emotion. Across cultures, the concept of love has many different meanings. It can range from the passionate love that ignites a flame in your heart (as seen in Romeo and Juliet) to the loving care that exists between parents and their children. The word love can even be used to describe a less-than-passionate feeling, like your fondness for something: Athletes have a “love” of sports. Readers have a love of books. Artists have a love of their craft.
However, the most common use of the word love is to express a romantic relationship between two people. When someone says they love you, it usually means that they are in a committed relationship and feel affection for the person they love. They are also likely to show their love by expressing it through actions, such as kissing, cuddling, and spending quality time with the person they love.
Several theories have been developed to explain what love actually means, including the color wheel theory, which describes three primary, three secondary, and nine tertiary types of love. Others, such as the Gottman Institute’s, describe a model of healthy relationships that includes five core components: commitment, passion, intimacy, trust, and respect. Depending on your personal values and beliefs, you may find that one of these theories is more meaningful to you.
Some people are hesitant to say “I love you” until they are sure that the feelings are real. This could be because they are afraid of being hurt or because they come from a family where the phrase was rarely heard. However, avoiding the word too long can lead to disappointment and heartache, so it is important to decide when you are ready to express your feelings.
When you do decide to say “I love you,” it is important to take your time and be honest with yourself about the state of your relationship. It is also wise to consider whether the feelings you are experiencing are true love or just infatuation. A person who truly loves you will understand if you are not ready to make a commitment, and they will be patient instead of pressuring you to do so.
Research has shown that when you are in a relationship, your brain activates regions related to reward and pleasure. These regions include the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. Brain scans have shown that when you talk about your love for a person, these areas light up with increased blood flow. This increase in activity is associated with the “feel-good” hormone dopamine and the bonding chemical oxytocin.
If you are not in a relationship, your brain’s reward circuit remains quiet. You may not experience the intense emotional connection of a loving relationship, and you may not be able to express your love in the same way that someone in a committed relationship does.